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Fine Margins: Best bets for the international break

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Armenia vs. Ukraine (Saturday 24 September, 0900 EST)

It's the international break in soccer, the last one in the build up to the World Cup, so it’s important to take that into account when looking at bets during this period. 

It could very well be the case that coaches are experimenting with their call-ups and attempting to tweak things ahead of the big kick-off in Qatar - certainly for the qualified teams, of course. So it will be notoriously difficult to second-guess team news and formations ahead of time - and that’s before we get to potential dropouts due to injury. 

So it’s advised that stakes should be small across all of these matches, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a look at some form that’s already in the book. 

Ukraine do not have their troubles to seek back home, of course, and the political situation proved to be quite the distraction as they were easily beaten 3-0 by Scotland on Wednesday, in a performance where they were lucky to get zero. 

In short, there’s a lot going on for this group of players and even though wins against Armenia and Scotland at home next week will secure top spot in the group, and a coveted playoff spot for Euro 2024, their form looked a real concern. They travel to play an Armenia team that hasn't been dreadful in the group, by any stretch. 

They defeated Ireland in their opening fixture and though they lost 3-0 to Ukraine in June, it was level until the hour mark. This Ukraine side look tentative and their heads are turned - they put so much work into trying to qualify for the World Cup only to lose to Wales, and these matches feel like an afterthought. 

Ukraine have enough talent to win and they probably will at a short price of -223, but we prefer the goal line instead. International football is low on goals at the best of times, and under 2.5 goals here at -130 looks very attractive. 

Pick: Under 2.5 goals @ -130 (Unibet)


Italy vs. England (Friday 23 September, 1445 EST)

Do either of these teams care about this fixture? It’s hard to gauge. On the one hand, it’s a largely meaningless Nations League encounter for two sides that will almost certainly reach Euro 2024 anyway. On the other, there’s the fact that Robert Mancini’s Italy failed to qualify for Qatar, and Gareth Southgate’s England were battered 4-0 by Hungary in their last outing. 

So while there’s relatively little competitive nature about the match, there will be a very real desire for both men to get their teams in and out of San Siro in Milan without any further damage being done to their reputation. 

England’s recent form in front of goal under Southgate isn’t much to shout about, either, netting just once in their last four matches, while Germany put five past Italy in June. With far less to go on when it comes to rich statistical data and recent form in international football, we work with what we have, and the last time these sides met in June it was the dullest of 0-0 draws.

They also drew in the Euro 2020 final of course, and these sides know each other intimately, as far as this level goes. There’s a good chance that this proves to be a low-key outing in which players will be content to make it through in one piece. 

We should look at the match result to be a draw, and give ourselves a little boost by adding Under five goals - this allows us to cover either 0-0, 1-1 or 2-2 - all results which both coaches would likely be content with. 

Pick: Italy and England to draw, and under five goals @ +240 (Bet 365)


Once again, these matches are tough, and it’s probably the least-wanted international break players have ever had to endure - and by all means avoid the swathe of international friendlies taking place which will have all manner of debuts and substitutions. 

So let’s once again look at the Nations League - but the worst teams in the competition in terms of goals, and best against those teams finding the net. 

Romania have just one goal in four matches and are probably better off dropping down to a lower level where they have a chance of winning. They travel to a Finland team who are better than them, but aren’t huge scorers themselves, with five goals in four. 

Likewise, Switzerland faces Spain with just two goals in their four matches in a competitive group. We’d bet against them finding the net against a Spanish side who are also likely to be much-changed, as that’s how coach Luis Enrique rolls. 

Cyprus take on Greece, with the former having failed to score in both of their Nations League clashes against Kosovo and Northern Ireland, and we don’t think much of their chances to do so against their geographical rivals either. 

And finally, Gibraltar don’t score often - just one in the group so far, and even less away from home. They travel to face Bulgaria. 

A both teams to score: no fourfold containing these teams will maintain a bit of interest across this weekend - but remember and keep the stakes on the low side.

Pick: Finland vs. Romania, Spain vs. Switzerland, Cyprus vs. Greece, Bulgaria vs. Gibraltar, both teams score - No; Fourfold @ +525 (Bet365)